The Kgosi Neighbourhood Foundation (KNF) believes pre-school is one of the most important elements in a child’s education, and its offering to this age group is a beacon of hope for families with small children in Johannesburg’s inner city suburb of Jeppestown.
Global engineering design and project management group DRA shares the same sentiment and decided to join forces with KNF and help the people of the impoverished area. Community development is part of South Africa’s National Development Plan or Vision 2030, which seeks to build sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life.
DRA engineer Mark Cresswell joined the organisation as chairman of the committee in 2005. “Most of the original members are still trustees of KNF, which was formed to run a school and other outreach projects with the aim of helping to uplift the whole area,” he told SA Goodnews.
WINGS OF HOPE
More than 80 children attend the foundation’s Wings of Hope school in Jeppestown, where they are cared for and given a free foundation level education to prepare them for their years to follow at primary school.
They come from disadvantaged homes where there are few opportunities to play with something as simple as a toy. Most of these children arrive not knowing how to colour in with crayons or even read a picture book.
KNF provides all of this and more to the pre-schoolers so that when they join Grade 1 they have the foundation to help them succeed.
“These little ones receive a high quality education from KNF. They also get two hot meals and a decent snack every day plus medical care if necessary and loads of love, care and support,” Cresswell said. “Ultimately, I have seen our past graduates go into Grade 1 with confidence and knowledge.”
Since Wings of Hope opened, it has grown from two classes of 20 pupils to four classes of 25 pupils. The enrolment has been steady at 100 pupils for the last few years, which means a large portion of the disadvantaged Jeppestown children are being given the opportunity of a better education.
HOW IT STARTED
KNF was founded in 2000 by Sister Natalie Kuhn, a Dominican nun who was nearing retirement from her position as headmistress of the Dominican Convent School (DCS) in Jeppestown.
She had been working in the area for years and had noticed the growing numbers of young children idly sitting on the street corners. She realised that she was witnessing the future’s potential street children and decided to do something about it.
Having always had a passion for pre-school education, she came up with the idea to turn one of the houses surrounding the core buildings at DCS into a pre-primary school. A fellow nun helped set up the school with inheritance money. In 2005, a committee was formed that included Cresswell as the chairman.
Sister Natalie died in 2013 but her good work continues with the help of companies like DRA.
With the pre-primary filled quickly, Cresswell and his fellow committee members began to recognise it was not enough to only provide a strong educational foundation to the children in their care.
“Once they graduate from pre-school and enter government schools, the children face uncertainty at home. Often there is not enough to eat and the children have to move from one home to another because their parents cannot afford to pay the rapidly rising rent,” he said.
“Without stability and adequate nutrition the children struggle to concentrate and progress with their studies.”
KNF HELPS FAMILIES
In response, KNF started sending the parents to accredited cooking, home-based care and cleaning courses. “Unfortunately, the courses are costly, so we are not able to assist every family.”
Those who have received training have been able to find employment, which has greatly increased the chances of stability in their homes.
KNF has also provided training and skills development to nine employees. “Six parents are now fully qualified pre-school teachers and three others work as support staff, cooking for 100 people each day and caring for the environment around them,” said Cresswell.
Through a monthly donation that started in 2008, DRA has invested more than R1.3-million in the organisation.
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